One child development expert’s suggestion about how to keep kids interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) over the holiday season has the Click-A-Brick crew smiling with appreciation. The educational learning toy company’s co-founders have given the thumbs up to Melissa Jurist, coordinator of K-12 education in the College of Engineering at the University of Delaware, for her list of ways to keep kids engaged in STEM throughout the holiday school break.
What makes Jurist’s list of activities unique is that she advocates giving children the actual tools they would find in a laboratory to keep them interested in STEM activities.
For children aged 4 – 6, Jurist recommends things like getting them an actual stethoscope and letting them hear the various heartbeats around them, getting some owl pellets and exploring what’s inside of them to learn about the lives of owls, building things out of scrap pieces of wood with real tools, tearing apart an old appliance to see what’s inside and exploring magnetism with magnets and light with prisms.
And for children aged 7 – 12, parents can do things like dissect a chicken leg with a scalpel, get some balsa wood and try to construct something using just the wood, glue and/or straight pins that can hold five pounds, getting them a pantograph or gyroscope or tinker with technology using Arduino and Raspberry Pi.
Obviously, many of these activities would require parent supervision, which goes along with Jurist’s assertion that parents should be interacting with their children as they learn and explore.
“I tell [parents] to get the tools that real scientists use, guide their children with activities that bring their world and the scientific world as close as possible, and, most importantly, have a blast,” Jurist said. “What makes the most sense, to me, is to provide multiple points of access to STEM — equipment, books and activities. I don’t differentiate gifts by gender, and I don’t think STEM materials need to be expensive.”
Jurist’s holiday STEM activities, which could be done at any time of year, have the Co-Founders of educational learning toy Click-A-Brick, Jason Smith and Georg de Gorostiza, nodding their heads in appreciation.
“We — and most parents — often think of STEM for children in terms of toys that will stimulate their interest and we still think those are probably best for kids who haven’t shown any interest in STEM yet, as a kind of introduction,” Smith said. “But, for students who have already shown a real interest and aptitude for STEM subjects, imagine how thrilled they’ll be to use the actual tools that people in STEM jobs use in their day-to-day lives. A toy stethoscope is one thing, but getting a real stethoscope and hearing a real heartbeat would be great for a child who is already showing signs of being interested in STEM education.”
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